The Essence of Advent

Since people have already started preparing for the holiday season, I’ve invited Lynn Watson to share about her Christmas devotional with us today – first of all, here’s an enticing trailer to watch:  https://youtu.be/ZT5_uGmptZM

Also, Lynn is giving away one copy of The Essence of Joy, either print or Kindle, to a commenter (Kindle only outside the USA.)

These Christmas readings provide ample food for thought. The reader-friendly style invites us to contemplate many aspects of the nativity story–especially the scents and tastes of the season. Several sections would be perfect for sharing as a group devotional. I was also impressed with how Lynn shares the spotlight with her cover artist. 

Take it away, Lynn…

Fictional character Cinnamah-Brosia was born in the first book in this series, The Essence of Courage. She has transformed Miss Dot’s Café (her Gram) into The Coffee Cottage. She and her friends hang out there, invite you in and share their stories of challenge and triumph as each chapter begins.

courage-book-cover-frontI approached my friend Allisha to create the character. Don’t laugh, but ‘C-B’ began as a super-hero character – a pretty cool one, I might add. But we doubted she would be believable or very well liked. Many drawings later, the cover features her at the patio table warmly inviting readers to enter.

When it came time to plan the next cover, I asked Allisha, “Are you in?” She agreed.

“This cover needs to say Christmas, but not scream it. We need friends in the picture, and The Coffee Cottage. Let’s include hints about the devotions and suggest some of the aromas. Above all, this cover needs to connect to the first book.”

 

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Just imagine the concepts she drew and we discarded before being rewarded with this beautiful cover illustration!

The Essence of Joy features Cinnamah welcoming guests for a Christmas party in the section, “Mint – The Joy of Giving.” Cinnamon and citrus on the wreath highlight “Citron – The Joy of Legacy” and “Cinnamon – The Joy of Integrity”. The blue framed piece on the cottage wall relates to “Frankincense – The Joy of Forgiveness.”

Allisha Mokry earned her BFA from Memphis College of Art. I trusted her imagination, instincts, and artistic gifts to create the characters and the covers. With encouragement to draw and develop as God led, her confidence blossom as I watched. I’m so proud of her and the work she has created. You may viisit Allisha on Facebook /artfulexplorations, and order The Essence of Joy at: https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/069296391X/.

The Essence of Courage:

You may contact Lynn at  www.lynnuwatson.com

Surprises…

This morning, I viewed the new trailer for the With Each New Dawn audiobook. How fun to listen to parts of the story coupled with images of the London World War II bombings.

When the cover came up and I saw my name there, it hit me–I’m the author of this intriguing story. That may sound a little weird, since I ought to know that, right? Well, I do, but maybe it’s the difference between knowing something in your head and in your heart.

Anyway, with all the anticipation and final edits about A Purpose True right now, being surprised is a good thing. It’s a reminder I’m not in charge, and our publications develop lives of their own.

You can see the trailer below, or on My Books page.

And VERY SOON, as promised, I’ll have the final cover for A Purpose True to share with you, along with the purchase links. Thanks, dear readers, for all of your support and encouragement throughout this process.

Walking on Eggshells

Have you ever felt you must walk on eggshells? Many of us can relate to Karen Stork’s story of learning to value herself. Screw the Eggshells 250 wide RGB

The “Back” Story

It is said that we teach people how to treat us. So I have always wondered how  I taught my husband to treat me with verbal abuse and control? And why would I continue to subject myself to this kind of behavior for so long?

Such questions were always in the back of my mind as I thought about the effects of being verbally abused. Helping young women avoid a similar path was another incentive for me, and the dream of becoming a published author was one that had festered for years.

Finally, on a beach in Florida in 2016, I decided it was time to get serious and turn my dream into reality. In one month, the story was outlined. Along with  chapters about my marriage, I also wanted to explore my childhood and my experiences and adventures as a single woman after marriage.

Returning home to Lincoln, I continued to write, but had no idea about publication or what would follow. I simply worked on writing and/or rewriting various chapters every day. After all, I needed a lot of experience writing in a very short time, since it hadn’t been a regular part of my daily routine since returning to college in the 1980s!

Early in 2017 I realized I couldn’t do this all on my own. I found a company in Omaha, NE to provide editing, book layout, cover, and assistance through the publication and marketing process. It wasn’t until late spring of 2017 that we had a title and format for the book — my literary baby was finally born on September 12, 2017. And the title was my inspiration!

Becoming an author fulfilled a major dream and helped me to understand some of my questions about th past. Other unanswered questions may never be resolved, but that’s okay. I don’t believe we can ever understand everything about our past; we just have to accept that whatever happened got us to where we are now. And this publication journey has been one of the greatest joys of my life.

To learn more, visit my website at www.karenstork.com.

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Karen Heckman Stork calls herself “The Grandma Moses of writing” because it took her 53 years to achieve her dream of becoming a published author. She is a columnist for the Lincoln 55+ senior quarterly newspaper with a column entitled “A Lincoln Life.” She also co-wrote and produced a family book entitled “Between the Generations, Poems by a Nana and her Grandson.” Karen is a member of the Nebraska Writer’s Guild and is available to read from her book and speak on subjects including the harmful effects of verbal abuse, aging without growing old, life lessons learned and poetry.

 

 

The Last of the Roses

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Seems not long ago when the first rose of the summer bloomed, and here it is, nearly the end of October.

Whoever coined the phrase time flies knew what they were doing. I’ve been editing and editing and EDITING…the final book of the Women of the Heartland series. Coming out in November…still not sure of the exact day of release. But the cold has blown in, and it’s time to rescue the last roses from my friend’s bush.

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It’s also nearly the 500th anniversary of the Reformation…yep, did you know that Martin Luther was a the best-selling author? If my writing affects one-hundredth of a percent of his following, I’ll be surprised.

My recent notes while reading about London during the Blitzkrieg… snippets of information like this come together to create a book. I suppose Luther took notes, too, but he wrote without the ease of modern technology, probably long into the night by candlelight.

Nothing about his life was easy, and interestingly, he included a subdued white rose in his seal, connoting the fruits of faith.

Whatever our task, that’s what it’s all about, believing that what we do makes a difference. Even a small difference in a few lives. As roses, in their quiet way, add beauty and lightness to our journey (if we take time for them…) so our work can enhance this weary world.

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Next post, I hope to share the cover of A Purpose True and its release date. In the meantime, I’ll keep on editing, and  hope you find a little time to spend with a rose.

The Humble Milkweed

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Probably many of my readers recall picking milkweed as children–such an unique plant.

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Yesterday my twelve-year-old granddaughter and I reveled in the superb softness of milkweed down. She sent it flying far and near, and piped, “Grandma, it’s softer than my special silky blanket!”

For the sake of the Monarch butterfly,  people have started re-growing this “weed” that used to flourish in Iowa’s ditches. Back in the forties and fifties, milkweed fluff was everywhere.

Many of us ran our fingers over the satiny floss that floated like dandelion fluff on sunny fall days. But few realized how vital this wispy white stuff had been in the World War II effort to save sailors’ lives. The Japanese controlled kapok, the normal life vest filler, so milkweed floss became a workable substitute.

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I’ve been reading an incredible book called And If I Perish, about nurses and doctors who risked–and often gave–their lives to help wounded soldiers. My research also gave me the story of an Indiana sailor who suffered in the waters of the Pacific and would have died without his life belt. He brought it home as a keepsake, and when his mother looked it over, she realized the inspection number on the belt belonged to her.

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Yes, she worked in a factory that produced life belts and vests. Such an ironic twist to this sailor’s story of deliverance. The war era is full of these stories–I can’t get enough of them.

 

One thing is certain, I’ll never look at milkweed quite the same way again.

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October musings

I read an article recently about smartphones hijacking our brains. The author maintains that using smartphones spikes our stress levels, reduces our attention spans, and basically renders us less intelligent.

Well, that’s one thing I won’t have to worry about, since my “smart” phone can’t even figure out what I’m saying when I try to text.
Not the sharpest knife in the drawer, as they say. My phone has even been known to use four-letter words when I was only trying to make a simple statement. Here’s an example.
Last winter I texted our daughter that her dad was out taking birdie pictures. The next thing I knew, she’d sent me a message asking if I ever read my texts before sending them–my so-called “smart”  phone had written DIRTY pictures. ARGH!!
Long-term studies have yet to be completed to reveal how smartphone usage affects developing brains.
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Last week, our grandchildren were in a crew of middle-school students from our church  to do fall clean-up work at a beautiful camp not far from here. Sigh…seeing photos like this does my old heart good–no technology here, just plain old muscle-building.
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And communal joy.
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OOPS….I guess a couple of the boys are taking pictures here…with their phones.
Ah, well! I suspect spending hours editing manuscripts each day may also affect my brain.
Back to this article I read. Having a phone that isn’t so smart gives me one less thing to worry about, and lots more time to enjoy the photographs my husband continues to snap. It’s “just a hobby,” he says, but wow—he’s getting quite accomplished at this.
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The Book I Never Wanted to Write

I asked Lillian Duncan what advice she has for writers, and she said, “DON’T GIVE UP! It took me 15 years to get a traditional contract, and now I have almost 20 books published! If I can do it, so can you. But not if you give up your dream!” Now, Lillian, please tell us about the BOOK YOU NEVER WANTED TO WRITE.

Puzzle House is the book I never wanted to write.

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What??? Let me explain. Rachel Summers, the main character in my new book, Puzzle House, has brain tumors due to Neurofibromatosis Type 2.

Neuro…What?

That’s what I said when my doctor told me I had brain tumors and something called Neurofibromatosis Type 2 (NF2 for short) in 2012. It didn’t seem like such a big deal at the time. After all, I felt fine, but I was wrong—really wrong!

So what exactly is NF2? It’s a rare genetic condition that allows tumors to grow anywhere on the nervous system, but especially in the brain (almost always on the auditory nerve and vestibular nerve) and the spine.

The Rare Disease Act of 2002 defines a rare disease as one that affects fewer than 200,000 people in the United States or about 1 in 1,500 people. So exactly how rare is NF2? About 1 in 25,000 to 40,000 people (depending on what source you use) have it so as you can see it’s extremely rare which is why you probably haven’t heard of it either.

The tumors are almost always benign, but there’s two meanings for benign. One being non-cancerous and the other being harmless. The good news is that my tumors are not cancerous, the bad news is they are definitely not harmless.

So how has NF2 affected me? Without going into all the gory details, since being diagnosed I’ve had two Gamma Knife Surgeries, three rounds of chemo, and countless months of being on steroids. Because of the tumors and/or the treatments, I have chronic fatigue, balance issues that affect my mobility, complete deafness in one ear and partial deafness in the other, neuropathy and severe pain in my arms and legs that also affect my mobility as well as a multitude of “less severe” symptoms.

After reading all that you might think Puzzle House is a really depressing story, right? I certainly hope not. My first goal when writing a story is always to entertain and that’s true with this one as well. In fact, the subtitle of the story is a novel of healing and hope.

I’m not going to give away the plot but I’ll give you a little hint. While unconscious after an auto-truck mishap, Rachel has a very special visitor who asks, “Do you want to be healed or to be a healer?” She makes her choice and that’s when her adventure begins.

Let’s get back to the healing and hope part of the novel. Nia is a 14 year-old girl who has lost hope and wants nothing to do with Rachel or Puzzle House. But they’re stuck with each other for the week so Rachel shares her story with Nia as they work her puzzle together.

It’s true that Puzzle House is a book I never wanted to write, but it’s also true that God uses all things for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28) and I believe that’s what He’s done by inspiring me to write Puzzle House.

Why did I choose a puzzle theme? Because in many ways life is like a puzzle—not a box of candy! A lot of pieces  have to be put together before you can see the whole picture. Many times we don’t understand why we need a particular piece of our puzzle but God does.

That’s where faith comes in. It’s not easy to keep trusting when we’re suffering, whether it be from a physical condition like brain tumors or some other difficulty. But if we trust God with all the puzzle pieces of our life, He will use them to create a thing of beauty.

 

Lil2016bfix Lillian Duncan…Stories of faith mingled… with murder & mayhem.

Lillian is a multi-published author who lives in the middle of Ohio Amish country with her husband and a menagerie of pets. After more than 30 years working as a speech pathologist for children, she believes in the power of words to transform lives, especially God’s Word.

Lillian writes the types of books she loves to read—fast-paced suspense with a touch of romance that demonstrates God’s love for all of us. To learn more about Lillian, you may visit her at www.lillianduncan.net or www.lillian-duncan.com. She also has a devotional blog at www.PowerUpWithGod.com.

Unique Interests

Sara L. Foust visits us today with news of her debut novel, Callum’s Compass. I hope you enjoy reading how her unique interests melded in the writing of this book.

Callum's Compass Cover

I seem to have a unique set of things I find fascinating. Pirates. Treasure hunts. Mushrooms. Owls. The way water runs down hills in little mini-streams when it rains. Blue heron cranes. The elk in our East Tennessee mountains that were reintroduced years ago. Cicadas. Rocks. Lightning.

It has taken a long time for me to find a way to combine my passion for nature and these unique interests with a love of reading and my faith in a way that honors God in what I do. I observe and then I write. I prayerfully tell the stories in my Romantic Suspense novels of women and men who live life outdoors, learn about new parts of their inner selves, and journey toward God. And it is so much fun!

When my first novel, Callum’s Compass, is released on November 7th, a dream I’ve had since second grade will come true. The story of Kat and Ryan and their painful pasts, freedom from guilt, and journey to love, takes place in the East Tennessee mountains I love. Full of adventure and treasure hunting, this book has allowed me to finally  put some of my unique interests to good use. I have plans for that pirate fascination of mine, too, in my next series.

But, for now, I will be bringing (if all goes well) a set of three novels to readers in the Love, Hope, and Faith Series. All three are tied together by the mountains of Royal Blue near my home, a cast of characters that need to find a part of their spiritual life that’s missing, and some good, clean romance amid the excitement and adventure.

I hope readers will enjoy reading them as much as I have enjoyed writing them, that they may learn a little about some part of nature they weren’t familiar with, and that they will be inspired by the journeys to love, hope, and faith my characters take.

Callum’s Compass

 Facing betrayal, wild animals, meth-addled drug makers, and their own fears, can Kat and Ryan discover the golden treasure and God’s love?Published by  Mantle Rock Publishing

How to reach Sara:

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Author Bio:

Sara writes Inspirational Romantic Suspense from a mini-farm in East Tennessee, where she lives with her husband and their five homeschooled children. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science from the University of Tennessee and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Tennessee Mountain Writers. Her debut novel Callum’s Compass won second place in Deep River Books’ 2017 Writer’s Contest. Sara finds inspiration in her faith, her family, and the beauty of nature. When she isn’t writing, you can find her reading, camping, and spending time outdoors with her family. To learn more about her and her work or to become a part of her email friend’s group, please visit www.saralfoust.com.

Of Toads and Insect Wings…

How can October be here already? That means November’s almost here too, and then…

Does anyone else feel as though time is flying faster than it used to? It’s been two weeks since forty-some authors gathered at the Waverly Iowa Public Library’s first book fair. Here are our signatures, sent out by an attendee who made sure his sweet daughters received every name in person.

 

OOPS – I couldn’t get that graphic to upload. So instead I’ll share one of my

IMG_3485husband’s shots. What does little fellow have to do with the book fair? I could probably think of something, because tying things together and making meaning from seemingly diverse segments of life is what writers do, right?

I’ve begun instructing a memoir class in for the Austin, MN community education organization – six lovely participants, and making meaning is what we DO! Last week I also facilitated a workshop for the Kossuth County Genealogical Society. So great to meet a whole roomful of people working hard on their family histories!

The next day, I met several more creative folks in a workshop for the Sioux Center public library, and then at one in Sheldon, Iowa. I can tie all this together by pointing out that workshops energize us, and driving…well, not so much. I feel a little worn around the edges…speaking of fragile, observe this delicate insect.

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Back home, my editing awaited. Oh yes…editing on the sequel to With Each New Dawn, and more work on another WWII novel that highlights the POW camp at Algona during the war.

So, October is peeking it’s head around the corner, and here we are. This month, we’ll host a couple of authors with their new releases, so away we go.

Roses Galore!

Catherine Castle visits us today with her story, A Groom For Mama, and she’s giving away a free e-book to one commenter. Thanks for joining us, Catherine.

                    My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose

Readers often want to know if authors insert themselves into their books. I’ve noticed that there are a few things that always seem to slip themselves into mine. Flowers tend to be one of those things. That’s probably because I’m a gardener and love flowers.

My newest sweet romantic comedy, A Groom for Mama, is no exception. At one point in the story, Allison, Jack, and Mama visit a rose garden. So I thought it would be fun to show you some pictures of the rose gardens I’ve visited.

Columbus park of Roses, Columbus Ohio

picture  2 Innswood Metro Gardens

 

Isn’t this bench inviting? This garden has hundreds of rose bushes. The minute you walk into the park you’re surrounded by the heavenly scent of roses. I imagined the garden Allison, Jack and Mama visited smelled as heavenly as this one.

 

Innswood Metro Gardens – My husband took the shot of the roses through a circle opening in a lattice gazebo. I just love the juxtaposition of the dark and the light.

Kingwood Center garden

 

 

This as another artistically composed shot from my husband’s camera. He was an art student, so naturally he looks at the composition of a photograph.

The Roses at Disney World.

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This picture was taken during Disney’s Flower and Garden Show. Every year in March-May they display hundreds of beautiful flowers. If you’ve never been, and you love gardens, you really should try to get there. It’s fantastic.

 

Catherine’s garden

 And of course, I couldn’t show you the lovely pictures of gardens I’ve visited without including one of my own award-winning garden. This is the view out of my office window. I planted knockout roses and ribbon grass around the ugly transformer box in the front of my yard. I got tired of looking at the hulking green metal box all the time.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed my little trip through the roses. Now, I hope you’ll enjoy this excerpt from A Groom for Mama.

AGroomforMama2_200Beverly Walters is dying, and before she goes she has one wish—to find a groom for her daughter. To get the deed done, Mama enlists the dating service of Jack Somerset, Allison’s former boyfriend.

 The last thing corporate-climbing Allison wants is a husband. Furious with Mama’s meddling, and a bit more interested in Jack than she wants to admit, Allison agrees to the scheme as long as Mama promises to search for a cure for her terminal illness.

 A cross-country trip from Nevada to Ohio ensues, with a string of disastrous dates along the way, as the trio hunts for treatment and A Groom For Mama.

EXCERPT:

 Beverly’s pale face broke out in a smile. “Jack!” She took the flowers from him and buried her nose in them. “They smell wonderful.” She waved him inside, hugging him as he passed by her.

He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek and then glanced around the foyer.

“She’s not here right now.”

“I’m just making sure the coast is clear.” He followed Beverly into the kitchen, the click of her shoes against the hardwood floor leading the way. The house slippers had disappeared with Allison’s arrival, and Beverly had started dressing up more. He was glad to see that. He eased his tall frame into the bar chair in front of the peninsula and set the fruit basket on the counter. “I’m planning to stay as far away from Allison as possible.”

“Is that so?” Beverly’s voice held a hint of sarcasm. “You’ve been over here a lot more since she arrived.”

“Son-in-law prospects, remember?”

As she retrieved a vase from the cabinet, he busied himself untying the string around the flowers, ducking his very hot, and most likely, red face from her view. She hit closer to the mark than he cared to admit.

“How are you feeling?”

“Okay, for now. Allison’s not doing well, though. The doctor visit hit her hard. She’s determined to save me, in spite of the odds.” Beverly took the flowers from him and dropped them into the vase. “Have you got some men for me?”

He swept the fallen flower leaves off of the counter into the waste can beside the bar. Then he concentrated on flicking imaginary pollen off the granite into his hand.

“I’ve been thinking, Beverly, are you sure you want to go through with this? Wouldn’t you rather spend what time you have left with Allison just being together? This bridegroom business has to be a bone of contention. I hate to see you two in disharmony.”

“Jack Somerset. Are you trying to get out of a deal with me? Because if you are—”

“Of course not. It’s just that—”

“—you don’t want to see her with someone else?”

His head snapped up. “I’ve had her once already and found her to be a contrary woman.”

Beverly grinned. “Me-thinks thou dost protest too much.”

No answer to that. Until their breakup they hadn’t ever argued. Back then, even when they didn’t see eye to eye, they could talk. He took a set of folded papers from his hip pocket and slapped them onto the counter. “Here’s the first set of men.”

“This one looks okay,” Beverly said as she scanned them, “but let’s scrap the rest.”

He checked her selection. “I think we should let Allison decide. After all, she’s the one who’ll be saddled with the guy.”

Beverly cocked her head and studied him. “What an odd way to put it. She’s supposed to fall in love with the man and live happily ever after, you know.”

Supposed to being the operative words.”

Want to read more? You can get A Groom for Mama at Amazon.

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About the Author:

Multi-award-winning author Catherine Castle has been writing all her life. Before beginning her career as a romance writer she worked part-time as a freelance writer. She has over 600 articles and photographs to her credit, under her real name, in the Christian and secular market. Besides writing, Catherine loves traveling with her husband, singing, and attending theatre. In the winter she loves to quilt and has a lot of UFOs (unfinished objects) in her sewing case. In the summer her favorite place to be is in her garden. She’s passionate about gardening and even won a “Best Hillside Garden” award from the local gardening club.

Her debut inspiration romantic suspense, The Nun and the Narc, from Soul Mate Publishing was an ACFW Genesis Finalist, a 2014 EPIC finalist, and the winner of the 2014 Beverly Hills Book Award and the 2014 RONE Award. Her most recent release, A Groom for Mama, is a sweet romantic comedy from Soul Mate Publishing. Both books are available on Amazon.

Buy link for A Groom for Mama www.amzn.com/B074SZSGB1

 Catherine’s website: https://catherinecastle1.wordpress.com

Catherine’s blog: http://catherinecastle1.wordpress.com/blog/

Catherine’s Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/author/catherinecastle

Catherine’s Goodreads page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7085414.Catherine_Castle

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AuthorCCastle   @AuthorCCastle

Facebook: https://facebook.com/catherinecastleauthor

Stitches Thru Time: http://stitchesthrutime.blogspot.com/

SMP authors blog site:   http://smpauthors.wordpress.com/